Create a Colorful Coffee Filter Caterpillar

My friends Max (6) and Violet (8) are really into bugs. They loved our Bug Crate and were excited to explore some more insect activities.

I had tried a grown-up version of this craft when making coffee filter garlands for a summer picnic, and thought it would adapt really well for an activity with kids. This is a perfect project for a bug-themed party, complete with your new caterpillar for decor and a station for guests to make their own butterfly wings!

All you need to do to create a colorful caterpillar is to dye some coffee filters, make a caterpillar head, and string everything together. This step-by-step guide will show you how to do exactly that.

Step 1: Dye the Caterpillar’s Body

While I gathered supplies, Max and Violet read that familiar heartwarming tale about an insatiable dreamer who hungered for a better life:

…then we were ready to start!

To create the caterpillar’s segmented body, you’ll need:

  • coffee filters (we used a whole box of about 250. It goes fast though, because you can dye the filters in stacks)
  • empty yogurt container
  • water
  • spoon
  • liquid watercolors

1. Add a dollop of liquid watercolor to the yogurt container. Add a little water, then give the mixture a stir.

2. Grab some coffee filters, and dip the edges into the mixture. Rotate your hand so that the filters absorb all the liquid.

3. Experiment! The kids double-dipped the filters, which created cool kaleidoscopic effects. Max was particularly proud of his camouflage design. (See middle row, left.)

4. Dry the filters overnight.

Step 2: Create the Caterpillar’s Head

An empty tissue box is the perfect thing to use for your caterpillar’s head. You can decorate it with whatever doodads and thingamajigs you have around the house. (We used construction paper, pipe cleaners, pom-poms, googly eyes, and buttons.)

Step 3: Assemble the Caterpillar

1. Peel the dried coffee filters.

2. Poke a hole through the coffee filters.  A grown up can do this in bulk with an X-Acto knife; you can get the kiddos to help out doing it one at a time with a chopstick or a pencil.

3. String the coffee filters up on a piece of twine or yarn.  Note: If you tape the yarn to a chopstick, you can poke it through a bunch of coffee filters at once.

4. Cut two small holes in the tissue box and pull the end of the string through. To make the caterpillar look like it’s turning its head, position one hole at the top of the head, and the other hole where the caterpillar’s ear should be (if caterpillars had ears!).

Ta-da—your very own coffee filter caterpillar! Max and Violet didn’t want a two-headed caterpillar, so they agreed to trade off which head would adorn the yard each week.

If you have any coffee filters left over, you can make butterflies to show what your caterpillar becomes when he “grows up”!

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